The New Dungeons and Dragons MMORPG – Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-bank-boundWell what can I say: when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons, I am a junkie. Neverwinter is good (for me) and bad (for my family) because it definitely delivers as a Dungeons and Dragons game. Yes there are many sword and sorcery games out there, but Neverwinter pours on the Dungeons and Dragons- specific content such as races, classes, magic items, lore, religion, and history.

The Neverwinter MMO RPG is set in the classic Dungeons and Dragons setting of Neverwinter, a region to the north in the most famous of Dungeons and Dragons settings, The Forgotten Realms. You will play the game in places where many other games have been set and see new areas that the developers at Cryptic have created for Neverwinter.

Even if you have played every other Neverwinter video game out there, such as Neverwinter Nights (one of my favorites!), the Neverwinter you will see in-game will be unlike anything you have before. Neverwinter is based in the continuing Forgotten Realms storyline set after the cataclysmic Spellplague. The Spellplague in Neverwinter is a mysterious and world-changing event that has changed the classic Forgotten Realms setting forever.

Neverwinter is also using a slightly modified version of the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Having given 4e Dungeons and Dragons a year of my own table top time to “get used to it”, my gaming group abandoned it. We felt it seemed to be wholly designed to be used in a video game instead of with dice on the battle mat. We were right! The Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition set of rules really does work out quite well in a Massively Multiplayer Online video game. Neverwinter seems to highlight the best of the system using a few of the favorite character paths as playable characters. Whether you are familiar with video games or not or whether you are familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons rule set, anyone will be able to quickly get into their character and understand what the numbers mean.

Overall I think the developers at Cryptic have a winner of a game in Neverwinter. It is not without its flaws, but overall this is another classic Dungeons and Dragons video game in the making.

Enough of the overview of Neverwinter, let’s get into the nitty gritty of the game!

Character Generation in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-statueThe first thing you are going to do when you log into Neverwinter is create your character. There are half a dozen character races to choose from. I would suggest playing something that you will like. In later guides I may talk about optimizing every little stat that you have. But in my opinion, playing a character you like is more fun than playing one you don’t, even if the unlikeable character is slightly more optimized.

With that in mind select a race that you want to play. Each race has their own little quirks but these play a minor role in your overall abilities.

Once you select a race, you can continue to the next screen. This will show you the recommended classes but you can change if you want to. I would suggest that you read through the races and classes before you dig into the character and find one you think will be good. The character creation is very informative so just make sure you know the decisions you are making.

Keep following the steps to create your character. It is a very easy process in Neverwinter, as it should be!

Character appearance options in Neverwinter are pretty good. They are not extensive but Neverwinter does deliver on the industry standard of character appearance customizations. Also, you will be able to change any of these in game for a small fee later. Some role players might want to make a character look young at low level and slowly age as he or she levels.

Once you think you are done, hit accept and you will enter the world at level 1.

General Game Play in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-shipwreckedNeverwinter tosses you right into playing through a small but fun story which helps to teach you all of the commands you will need to play the game.

In the tradition of many other MMO’s out there, which I think now is an industry joke, you wake up shipwrecked on the beach. You have to make your way through to the city learning as you go. In fact the game is very intuitive throughout your progression to assist you in learning new powers, abilities, and options as you go. However, the in-game help in Neverwinter is lacking. Hopefully more will be added later. However, if you do have a question, asking the zone will often give you the answer you are looking for.

Character movement and control is intuitive and uses the standard ASDW with the surrounding keys used to access your powers. Everything I needed was easily reached and after just a little bit of play I found myself hitting the surrounding keys without even thinking about it.

Navigation of in game menus and the hotkeys to bring them up were all pretty standard. I know this may seem boring but many of us gamers really appreciate a generalized menu system so we don’t get so lost bouncing between games.

Lore in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-familiar-faceAs soon as you get going in the tutorial you will also start seeing Lore entries pop up when you enter new areas or meet important new non player characters in Neverwinter. These pieces of Lore will begin to populate into your Lore journal and will reveal a huge amount of great story background in Neverwinter. You will also see sparkling objects scattered around the world. Move up to them and click F to inspect them and many of these will also give you Lore entries.

If you are interested in the story, background, depth, or even just the in game accomplishments as a gamer make sure you take the time to snoop around for Lore objects. There are many that you will only have one change to get, so make sure you do as you play through Neverwinter.

Combat in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-big-beastyCombat in Neverwinter is generally very fun. Unlike so many other MMO’s out there Neverwinter isn’t about mashing your keyboard in the right order. Don’t get me wrong, there is a little of that, but much more importantly is that like Dungeons and Dragons Online, Neverwinter has an active combat system. This means that dodging, moving, position, and timing all play together to create a rich and fun combat experience.

The combat has a more console feel than a typical PC MMORPG feel. In most combat encounters in Neverwinter, you will want to go in with a plan and use your classes’ niche to defeat your enemies. Players need to manage their powers (At-Will, Encounter, and Daily) throughout combat to insure they come out ahead. Action Points and other resources also need to be monitored while you duke it out with the tougher enemies.

Along with timing you attacks and powers as well as flanking enemies most classes also have abilities to move around the most dangerous attacks from enemies. These dangerous attacks will appear during battle on the ground as red areas. Many attacks have noticeable tells which can help you know when to move, dodge, or stun your opponent with the most effect. Remember this is active combat. Get used to moving around, using powers and dodging or you will have a difficult time beating harder encounters.

Some of the tougher boss battles took 5 or 10 minutes. However, I found the time dodging, charging a power, timing out a stun, or many other things very exciting and nerve wracking. It’s so much more exciting than other boss battles in other MMO’s where you just tell your character to attack and then you can go make a sandwich while you wait.

I think Neverwinter has done a good job mixing a little button mashing into active and mobile combat. MMO’s are starting to head this direction and that is a good thing! Let’s end the days of auto attack and 1,2,4,5,3,5,1,2 macros.

Your Enemies in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-angry-ashmadaiOn the other side of combat are the enemies you will face in Neverwinter. These come in all shapes and sizes and the team for Neverwinter has done a great job on the art. Yes, it leans towards the cartoony side but not in a bad way. The enemies in Neverwinter are little over the top, a little brighter, and many are high contrast but they definitely don’t overdo it.

Along with the sharp art of the enemies are the abilities and personalities of each group that you encounter. It seems that the developers at Cryptic have done a great job in portraying many of our most favorite and feared Dungeons and Dragons monsters in Neverwinter.

The enemies you encounter look different, but most importantly they feel different. Some enemies are fast, some are slow. Some are slow to react, others are fast. Some are ranged and some are upfront tankers. The feel and style of the enemies in Neverwinter feel great and this contributes to keeping combat fun and entertaining throughout the game. Not to mention when they die they pop and treasure flies out of them like candy from a piñata. Wahoo to loot rain!

Graphics and Environment in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-frozen-valleyWhen you see the enemies, the areas, and the vast differences in the various environments in Neverwinter you get the sense of things being tied together, even when you move from the top of a frozen mountain to the depths of a chasm in the city. This is something that some MMO’s miss which can really make moving between areas jolting. Thankfully the team for Neverwinter hit the mark and each area you visit fit in well with the whole.

The graphics are quite pretty and use the latest technology, so crank up your video settings so you can get the most out of Neverwinter. Then make sure to really check out the environments you play through as they will have many little gems to discover.

One thing I found interesting is that Neverwinter throws you onto a very narrow story, and areas you work through are small compared to other MMO’s. However, they do not feel small, they feel grand in scale and give you the sense of playing in a much larger area that you really are.

Ease of Character Management in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-totemManaging your character in Neverwinter is relatively straightforward. The various UI elements are clean and intuitive. There is little extra clutter and lots of information is crammed into each area.

I think one of the most frustrating things about Neverwinter is that it is very easy to do things to your character, though not so easy to undo them. Things in Neverwinter’s character management such as assigning Feat points, Power points, enchanting items, or even changing your appearance are very easy to do but when you want to try something else or experiment with a power you have to pay for it, whether that is through in game currency or real life currency. I think this is a terrible idea as it discourages the very things you should be experimenting with in an MMO to keep you interested. Or worse yet, charge you for making a character choice that is either unclear or been changed. I guess I am OK with paying for cosmetic changes, but forcing me to pay real money to change your character to switch out of a power/skill/feat that is either weak or broken is not cool in my book.

Every other game I have played, free to play or not, gave a way to change your powers/skills/feats for free so you could tweak a character when needed. Let’s hope that Neverwinter decides to do the same thing. Until then, make all your character choices carefully or have your credit card handy.

Free to Play in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-innNeverwinter is a free to play MMORPG. As of the writing of this review there were no plans to have a subscription model of any kind. Neverwinter will be free to download and play, though the free to play accounts will be limited to a couple of characters and have some other limitations.

One very nice thing about Neverwinter is that all of the content will be available to free to play players so they will be able to advance and enjoy the game. Where Neverwinter really focuses with its pay features are on acquiring items (most powerful items and gear), account and character services (changing appearance, feats, powers, etc.), and secondary conveniences (training companions and crafting).

The main source of their pay to play model is to purchase Zen, their direct real money currency. Then you can buy things in game with Zen or use Zen to get the other big in game currency, Astral Diamonds. There is a market in Neverwinter where you can convert Astral Diamonds to Zen and vice versa. Along with these main currency sets there are many more sub sets in the game for various sub economies.

To keep it all straight just remember this simple tip: Kill mobs to get copper, which converts to silver which converts to gold which converts to basic gear which is all lesser than praying for rough astral diamonds and celestial coins which are less than or equal to playing a lot and praying while remembering to convert rough astral diamonds into astral diamonds which then may or may not be greater than or less than Zen at any particular moment on the Neverwinter money market but all is less than real live money which you can actually use outside of a fantasy world. Oh and bars of ore come into play somewhere… Figure all that out and you will be a rich Neverwinterian!

Player Created Content in Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-spiral-stairsPlayer made content will give Neverwinter true staying power. Neverwinter has a system called the Foundry where their player base can build quests, or quest whole quest series into the game’s existing lore and areas. The potential for this is huge: it has the possibility to give Neverwinter that elusive quality: replay ability. This is the one thing that seems to doom MMO’s to a quick death. If players have to run through the same old quest with every character they will soon lose interest and move to another MMO. What any MMO RPG needs to stay alive is to have enough content to let players have different gaming experiences while they level up multiple characters. The Foundry is going to be what does it for Neverwinter, though I hope that they also plan to release their own expansions and quest series to supplement the player base quests.

Final Thoughts on Neverwinter

ddmsrealm-neverwinter-pain-bringerAll in all I think that Neverwinter is a good game and a great addition to the long line of Dungeons and Dragons video games.

Neverwinter does have too many convenience roadblocks in the way to tempt you to drop cash to make playing easier, though Neverwinter does earn some respect allowing players to earn in game and effectively be able to truly play for free. If you truly want to play for free, you will have a lot of grinding and waiting to do. If you are willing to drop 10 or 15 bucks per month on it, you will be able to get plenty from Neverwinter. Neverwinter does come precariously close to pay to win, though we will just have to see how this plays out in the long run.

Neverwinter is definitely a great game. My only quibbles are with the handful of character management aspects I feel you shouldn’t have to pay to change and the confusing and convoluted multi layered economies. If you like Dungeons and Dragons style fantasy games, Neverwinter is definitely one to try.

Neverwinter’s game play is fast and furious. The combat remains entertaining and fun, with different enemies and situations to test you around each bend. The stories, quests, and lore of Neverwinter give a great deal of depth to the game, more than you will find in many other games.

With so many free to play MMORPG’s it’s hard to say what kind of future Neverwinter will really have. However, after playing MMO’s for almost 20 years, I think this one is going to be around for a while.  It is definitely one I am going to play being both a Dungeons and Dragons junkie and a stickler for a good game. I definitely recommend giving Neverwinter a try!